Opening the Door to Greater Profits

Sept. 1, 2006
Door servicing and replacement provides an opportunity to expand your business.

For many locksmiths, the door is the thing that the hardware is installed onto. The door is the physical barrier, the structure that must be moved out of the way in order to gain access or egress. We may check to see that the swing is proper, ensuring the closer operates to close the door and latch the lock. If the door has a problem, some locksmiths replace hinges or install continuous hinges, but few locksmiths replace doors.

Door servicing and replacement provides an opportunity to expand your business, and increase sales and profits. Locksmiths who install doors by default almost always sell the lock hardware that is to be installed on the door. The alternative is that the carpenter/door company that installs the door will almost always sell and install the lock hardware, leaving the locksmith who does not install doors out of the transaction.

Door installation is not rocket science. In most instances, you do not need two people or Herculean strength to install the average door. To simplify the installation, door fixtures are available for holding the door and doing the door prep. In addition moving tools can make it easier to transport the door from service vehicle to jobsite/doorway.

Sometimes only the door needs replacement, and sometimes only the frame needs replacement. Other times, they may both need replacement.

Door frame replacement is not terribly difficult. Wooden frame pieces can be purchased and cut to size using standard wood working tools. These include a miter saw, miter box, tape measure and three-foot level. For those persons with an extra $100 give or take, an electric cut-off saw makes the job even easier.

Metal door frame replacement is even easier. There are door frames designed for retrofit installations. These frames usually contain spacing brackets and mounting screw holes in order to plumb and square the frame. Metal door frames are ordered to exact sizes. They can be order in different thickness gauges, accommodate any type of door hinging, latching, and with reinforcement for a door closer if ordered.

There are many different types and styles of doors. For our purposes, doors are divided by swing versus sliding and material composition. Door material choices are determined by the door being replaced as well as if the opening is fire rated, and whether the end user wants to upgrade the door. Doors are available in wood, hollow metal, aluminum/glass storefront, composite (fiberglass, etc.) and glass (Herculite).

Wood and Hollow Metal Doors

For this article, we will discuss wood and hollow metal doors, as aluminum/glass storefront door and glass doors are special categories. Composite doors are normally used in harsh environments, such as chemical storage rooms and wet rooms, and in a salt water environment.

When choosing a wood door, there are several considerations. Where is the door being installed? What will the door protect? Does it need to be similar to other existing doors? What will be the cost to your customer?

An interior closet door that will be painted can be hollow core. If the door is for a high traffic application, a solid core door is recommended. For a home, six-panel doors are quite popular, as are doors with stained and/or leaded glass.

Hollow metal door choices are quite complex. As locksmiths, we can go to a home center and find a number of doors and doors/frames in hollow metal. The average stocked weatherized metal exterior door at a home center will usually be of lighter gauge (less than 16), without reinforcement in the areas such as closer, lock, or hinge. This usually less expensive door may not withstand the abuses of people, carts, temperature and day-to-day operation. Recommendation: If using a home center door, thru bolt all lock hardware to ensure that it stays on the door.

Before ordering or purchasing a door, you need to know exactly what you want. An advantage of going to a locksmith wholesaler or door company is the ability to have the door customized to your specific application. Usually, there is someone available who will be able to answer questions you have and the questions you have not yet considered.

Selecting Replacement Doors

When replacing a door, here are a few door points to consider:

The standard door is usually 1-3/4" or 1-3/8" thick. Doors that are thicker than 1-3/4" are available usually at an up charge.

Proper gauge (metal thickness) for the door is determined by application and environment. As a suggestion, the minimum interior hollow metal door thickness is 18 gauge. Recommended minimum exterior hollow metal door is 16 gauge.

Doors can be ordered with whatever door prep and lock function holes are required. Having the factory prep the door eliminates any cutting or grinding at the jobsite. All you have to do is install the door and the hardware.

Core options vary depending upon the door manufacturer and your needs. To determine the core, consider what the door is protecting. Where is the door being installed? North, south, east or west facing? Is the exterior door always covered or is it exposed to the elements? What is the climate?

Purchasing heavier gauge, reinforced doors for vandal resistance/abusive applications will cost more in the beginning, but should last much longer than a thinner gauge door.

Doors can be strengthened in different fashions depending upon the manufacturers methods of construction. For example, a door can have a continuous edge/seam welding to keep the faces from separating.

As discussed before, door reinforcement, additional pieces of metal, are welded in place in different areas to strengthen the door. Examples include closer reinforcement, lock reinforcement, etc.

When choosing a replacement door, look at the door edge. Is it square edged or beveled? A beveled edge door provides a better fit in most applications. However, the beveled door is handed. A square edged door is non-handed.

There is the option of continuous hinge or thicker gauge butt hinges.

Door companies have different warranties for different models of doors. Find out what the warranty covers. Find out if anything must be done to the door to bring the warranty into effect.

Depending upon the door and the specifications, a higher grade door may end off being less expensive and have a longer warranty than a heavily customized lower quality door.

Important: Before ordering, always look at the door being replaced and write down all of its characteristics. Specify if changes will be made for the replacement door.

Taking Measurements

Before ordering a door, either you or the supplier can take the measurements. It is always a good idea to have the door company come out and measure the door. Ask the company if there is a charge to measure. The reason is that an improperly measured door is a real problem.

If you decide to measure for the replacement door, there are a number of important considerations. The first is to look at the opening into which the door is being installed.

Are the door frame and the floor level? Use a three-foot level to determine if the threshold is level, if the frame header is level, and the frame legs are plumb (vertical).

The four corners of the opening need to be at right angles, a rectangle. To check if the opening is square, measure the two diagonal lengths (top right to bottom left and top left to bottom right). If they are the same dimension, the opening is square. If it’s not exactly square and you are installing a wood door, it is sometimes possible to trim the door to fit the opening. No more than one-quarter inch should be trimmed from a door to compensate for the opening.

Is the jamb (the load-bearing structure) able to support the door? Look at your existing door. Does it fit the opening and swing properly?

Are the hinges secured to the door edge and the jamb? If not, the screws securing the hinges may not be tight or the jamb needs to be reinforced.

Measure the width of the door at three places. Measure the height of the door at two places. The measurements should be very close.

Mark the position of the hinges on the door by measuring the frame from the top and bottom, and remember to allow for the clearance.

Mark the position of the latch opening(s) on the door by measuring the frame from the top and bottom, and remember to allow for the clearance.

After determining all of the measurements and options needed for the door, it can then be ordered and installed. Find out the availability of the door and the time required to obtain it. Usually, the replacement door is needed as soon as possible.

Note: You may want to get in touch with several door companies before you actually need a door. Get some brochures, find out about delivery times and warranties.

A properly ordered and installed door can last a lifetime.

For more information, contact your locksmith wholesaler. If they do not sell hollow metal doors and frames, ask for a recommendation or contact a door company and find out through whom you can purchase door and/or frames. Many door companies offer information on how to measure for a frame as well as a door. Remember: When ordering a door or frame, find out who pays for shipping.